Microsoft

Learn how to use the Windows 7 Resource Monitor for effective troubleshooting

Greg Shultz explores the Windows 7 Resource Monitor's features with the goal being to teach you how the tool can be used to troubleshoot performance.

After last week's blog "Track Stability in Windows 7 with the Reliability Monitor" was posted, I received an e-mail message from a reader who described their Reliability Monitor chart as being full of Windows and Miscellaneous failures that seemed to be occurring on a regular basis. The reader suspected that a malfunctioning process was the cause and wanted more detail on using Microsoft Windows 7's Resource Monitor to keep tabs on system resources being used by running processes and services. While I was able to help the reader out, a comment they made about feeling overwhelmed by the amount of detailed information and the number of features packed into Windows 7's Resource Monitor stuck with me for a few days.

After taking a more detailed look around Resource Monitor and talking to other Windows 7 users, I discovered that many folks who access Resource Monitor use it more like Windows Task Manager's Processes and Performance tabs. In other words, I found that many users are paying more attention to watching the real-time graphs and looking at processes list than using the Resource Monitor's features to manipulate the display and focus in on specific information that could help them troubleshoot and isolate problems.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I provide you with an overview of the Resource Monitor's features. My goal is to help you learn how to use Resource Monitor as a tool that can determine how system resources are used by processes and services. Once you know more about how Resource Monitor works, in future articles I can then show you how to use Resource Monitor to delve into specific problems, such as tracking down unresponsive processes, analyzing heavy resource consumers, and investigating memory usage.

Keep in mind that Windows Vista also comes with Resource Monitor, but the user-interface layout is different and it lacks the majority of the features of its successor. In Windows XP, the main tool for tracking resources is Task Manager.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Launching Resource Monitor

There are actually several ways that you can launch Resource Monitor. If you happen to be in Task Manager, you can click its button on the Performance tab. You can access Resource Monitor from the Start menu by navigating to All Programs | Accessories | Systems Tools. Or you can just click the Start button, type Resmon.exe in the Start Search box, and press [Enter].

When you do, you'll see the Resource Monitor user interface with its five tabs, as shown in Figure A. On each tab, you'll find several tables of detailed real-time data as well as multiple graphs.

Figure A

Windows 7's Resource Monitor sports a tabbed user interface with multiple graphs.

Taking a look around

As you can see in Figure A, the Overview tab displays basic system resource usage information from the four main tabs: CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network. You'll also see base graphs for each of the four categories. As its name implies, the Overview tab provides you with an at-a-glance, basic overview of your system's current status.

As you can see, the CPU graph displays the total percentage of CPU capacity currently in use in green and the CPU Maximum Frequency in blue. The Disk graph displays the total current I/O in green and the highest active time percentage in blue. The Network graph displays the current total network traffic (in Kbps) in green and the percentage of network capacity in use in blue. The Memory graph displays the current Hard Faults per second in green and the percentage of physical memory currently in use in blue.

If you are seeking more detailed data from a specific component, just select the associated tab.

Tables

Each tab in Resource Monitor includes several tables that provide detailed information specific to the resource associated with that tab. If you select the CPU tab, you'll see that it provides you with much more detailed data concerning the current status of the CPU. For example, on the CPU tab, you'll find four tables titled Processes, Services, Associated Handles, and Associated Modules, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

On the CPU tab, you'll find four tables titled Processes, Services, Associated Handles, and Associated Modules.

The first table displayed on each of the tabs is called the key table, and it displays a complete list of processes using the resource associated with that tab. For example, all the processes displayed in the key table in Figure B are specifically tied to the CPU.

You can hide or show a table by clicking the arrow on the right side of the table's title bar. As you can see, the Associated Handles and Associated Modules tables are currently hidden.

Each table contains multiple columns that display pertinent data. You can view definitions of data by hovering your mouse pointer over the column title you want more information about.

When you are analyzing the data presented in a table, you can manipulate the columns to focus on specific data using several techniques:

  • You can rearrange columns by clicking on a column header and dragging and dropping it in a different position.
  • You can sort the data in a particular column in either ascending or descending order by clicking the column header.
  • You can choose which columns to display in the table, as shown in Figure C.
    • To remove a column from the display, right-click the column header and select the Hide column command.
    • To display a hidden column, right-click the column header and choose the Select Columns command to display the Select Columns dialog box where you can select a check box.

Figure C

You can rearrange the order of the columns as well as hide and show columns.

Graphs

When you select the Memory tab, you'll find that it provides very detailed information about the system's current memory usage, as shown in Figure D. As you can see, in addition to the key table, the Memory tab's Physical Memory table provides you with a unique bar graph showing memory usage. (We'll take a much closer look at this particular graph in a future article when we cover analyzing memory usage.)

Figure D

The Memory tab sports a unique bar graph that shows how memory is currently allocated by the system.

On each of the tabs, you'll see a set of pertinent graphs on the right panel. These graphs display a minute's worth of activity and run continuously. If you want to take a closer look at the activity on a particular graph before it scrolls out of view, you can pull down the Monitor menu and select the Stop Monitoring command. Select the Start Monitoring command to resume.

You can hide the graph's panel by clicking the arrow on the left side of the title bar. On the other hand, you can choose the size of the graph by clicking the Views button to choose between small, medium, and large graphs. (In Figure D, I am using the medium-sized graphs.)

You'll also see small bar graphs in many of the table title bars that show current results from the corresponding graphs. For example, the Physical Memory table title bar contains two bar graphs — one showing memory in use and the other showing available memory.

Filtering

When you're tracking down a specific problem, you can use the Filtering features to highlight certain processes or services. When you select a process, all other processes are filtered out so that it is easy to see where and how the selected process is coming into play. This makes it easier to focus on tracking and ultimately solving the problem at hand. In the key table on each tab, you'll notice that there are check boxes adjacent to each of the listed processes. If you select a process, each place that particular process occurs will be highlighted in orange on all of the tabs where the process or service comes into play.

For example, Figure E shows the svchost.exe (NetworkService) process selected in the key table. As you can see, that service is then displayed in the other tables on the Network tab. You'll also see that the graphs display that service's activity with orange lines.

Figure E

When you select a process, all other processes are filtered out so that it is easy to see where and how the selected process is coming into play.

Settings

There are many ways that you can reconfigure Resource Monitor's display so that you can pinpoint specific areas that you want to look at. As you experiment with Resource Monitor, you can save configuration settings designed for specific monitoring operations in separate files.

To save a configuration display, which include the window size, column widths, optional columns, expanded/hidden tables, and the active tab, pull down the File menu and select the Save Settings As command, as shown in Figure F. You can then open a particular configuration display file at any time by using the Load settings command on the File menu. On the other hand, you can return to the default configuration display by selecting the Restore Default Settings command on the File menu.

Figure F

Once you have configured Resource Monitor's display, you can save that configuration.

Unfortunately, Filtering selections are not saved as part of the configuration settings.

Resource Monitor tips

As you are using Resource Monitor, keep these tips in mind.

  • When you save configuration settings to a file, that file is added to the Resource Monitor's Jump List. You can make sure that it stays there by pinning it to the Jump List.
  • Because Filtering selections are not saved as part of the configuration settings, you might want to include information on filtering settings as part of the file name so that you can reselect them when you reload the settings file.
  • You can open multiple instances of Resource Monitor, each one configured with a different focus.

What's your take?

As you can see, Windows 7's Resource Monitor is a powerful tool with a lot of features. In future articles, we'll explore how to use Resource Monitor to delve into specific problems, such as tracking down unresponsive processes, analyzing heavy resource consumers, and investigating memory usage.

Have you used Resource Monitor to track resource usage or troubleshoot a problem? If so, what has been your experience? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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